Classic Home Videogames Museum: Second Generation

Second Generation Systems: 1977 to 1980

If you wanted a video game system, you either got an Atari VCS or Mattel's Intellivision. The VCS had more hit games and cost $140. Intellivision was running about $210 at the time, but it had better graphics. Odyssey2 and Astrocade were a distant third and fourth.
-- Mattel Strikes Back, Video Games Player October/November 1983

The Systems


In the late 1970s, it seemed people were, in general, tired of ball-and-paddle games. Fairchild's Channel F and RCA's Studio II had given players a taste of programmable home games but were soon eclipsed by Atari's new 1977 offering, the Video Computer System (VCS), later renamed the Atari 2600. The VCS offered a wider variety of games and controllers, as well as name recognition through Atari's visibility in the Pong era.

In 1978, seeing the popularity of the VCS as an opportunity to market their own programmable systems, Bally released its Professional Arcade and Magnavox, another giant in the Pong-style systems, released its Odyssey2 (that should be "Odyssey squared" or perhaps "Odyssey^2"). Bally's machine can be programmed with a BASIC cartridge but doesn't include a full keyboard, while the Odyssey2 has a full (albeit membrane) keyboard but no user programming capabilities.

The final entries in the second generation of home video games came in 1979 from Mattel and Milton-Bradley. Mattel's Intellivision promised better graphics and sound than the competition, as well as pending upgrades that would turn it into a full-featured computer. The Microvision, from Milton-Bradley, was the first hand-held game system with interchangable cartridges.

Although the date I have for the Emerson Arcadia is 1982, technologically, is clearly belongs in this generation. Its capabilities are roughly a cross between the Atari 2600 and the Bally Astrocade, though by 1982, it had to compete with the capable third generation machines.


Dennis Brown, dgbrown (at) pixesthesia (dot) com, creator and maintainer. E-Mail me with corrections and additions. All contents copyright 2006, Dennis Brown. All trademarks are properties of their respective companies.